Paris - New
Zealand racked up their 2 000th international try and threatened to
hand France a sound thrashing before a second half rally limited them to
a 38-18 win in Paris on Saturday.
As it happened: France v All Blacks
Ryan Crotty chalked up the landmark score as four first half tries -
the others from Dane Coles, Waisake Naholo and Sam Cane - gave the All
Blacks a 31-5 half-time lead on Armistice Day.
Teddy Thomas crossed for France on his return to the fold after a
two-year absence while a penalty try helped close the gap before Naholo
grabbed his second in the final minute to prevent New Zealand from being
kept scoreless after the break.
Beauden Barrett kicked a perfect six from six from a 13-point personal haul for the visitors.
Despite a spirited second half fightback from the hosts, there was no
masking the gulf in class less than two years out from the 2019 Rugby World
Cup in Japan.
But after a thoroughly one-sided first half, France's only
consolation is that they didn't succumb to a record defeat - their
61-10 reverse in Wellington in 2007 retains that dubious honour.
New Zealand gave notice of their intent on their first possession as a
brilliant one-handed offload after contact from Sonny-Bill Williams set
up a chance on the very next phase for the centre, but he was held up
over the line by prop Jefferson Poirot.
Yet right from the resulting scrum typically quick passing and a
clever line run by Coles saw the hooker go through a gap to score the
opening try of the game.
France were struggling to contain New Zealand's rapid brand of
running rugby and were frequently scrambling in defence deep inside
their own 22.
Barrett kicked a penalty to add to his earlier conversion and after
his chip ahead forced France to carry the ball over their own line, New
Zealand had a five-metre scrum.
France were creaking and following a series of scrums, a long skip-pass
from Barrett found Naholo in acres of space to stroll over for the
Coles went off with what seemed a knee injury and France struck back
immediately, kicking a penalty to the corner and then firing the ball
out to the right for Thomas to dive over.
France's expected pack dominance didn't materialise and six minutes
before half-time tighthead prop Rabah Slimani was sin-binned after
collapsing a scrum for the third time, while loosehead Poirot went off
for a concussion protocol.
New Zealand needed little more
encouragement and a brilliant rugby league style grubber from Williams
was touched down by Crotty for the All Blacks' 2 000th international
There was still time before the break for a passage of stunningly
quick and slick passing to send Cane over, with Barrett's conversion
giving the tourists a huge half-time lead.
France came out fired up for the second period and after an Anthony
Belleau penalty, they were denied a try following a scything break from
livewire scrumhalf Antoine Dupont by Williams deliberately batting the
ball out of play in the New Zealand end zone.
But he copped a yellow card and France were awarded a penalty try.
France had their tails up and after another Belleau penalty, Thomas
was denied a second try after his right foot grazed the touchline.
They had a period of pressure close to the New Zealand line but the
All Blacks held out with Williams now back on the field and there was a
palpable sense that the hosts had let their one chance slip through the
It proved the case as Naholo had the final word.
France will relish their battle with the Springboks next weekend in Paris (21:45 SA time), while the All Blacks travel to Edinburgh to play Scotland earlier in the day (19:15 SA time).
15 Nans Ducuing, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Mathieu Bastareaud, 11 Yoann Huget, 10 Anthony Belleau, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Judicael Cancoriet, 5 Paul Gabrillagues, 4 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Jefferson Poirot
Substitutes: 16 Clement Maynadier, 17 Raphael Chaume, 18 Daniel Kotze, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Anthony Jelonch, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Francois Trinh-Duc, 23 Damian Penaud
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Kane Hames
Substitutes: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown